Aiming for Perfection – Be Aware of the Pitfalls

(Article written for City Fitness - August's national newsletter).

We all have goals and aspirations, and thus by definition we set high standards for those areas of lives that require excellence.  ‘Excellence’ however is not ‘Perfection’ – nor should this latter state be sought.

I recall the story of an age group athlete doing the Taupo Ironman, and upon exiting the water they looked at the time and saw ‘1:15’ and thought, “Well there goes any chance of getting to Kona!!”.  The remainder of their day was, by their standards, a bit of a write-off.  They had trained for, and expected, a perfect swim to set them up for a chance to compete for places once on the bike.  With a ‘bad’ swim they saw their day fall apart, and thus their goal was seen to be unreachable.  They were crushed by this apparently poor start and never recovered.  (Incidentally, their time was actually 1:00 – which was right on target.  They simply weren’t aware that the clock above the water’s exit displays the time since the Pro’s departed – a full 15 minutes before the age group athletes setoff).

A mindset of gaining perfection creates a potentially negative set of scenarios, whereby an individual either achieves the results (and thus has the goal of perfection still held as realistic), or makes some small error (and feels they have failed).  Examples may also include; aiming to hit the heart rate zone for every single workout for the entire season, never missing a workout, and always finishing first.  This mentality can create a state where you start to focus on the results rather than the process.  For example, what got you into great shape is cutting out junk food and training six times a week – missing that 6th rep of the 100kg bench press is not the end of your great training.

This is not to say that standards shouldn’t be high.  I have done training rides where I knew that if I didn’t hit specific numbers, then I’d have to reassess my goals for that season.  This is all about being realistic, and not wasting time on goals that are out of reach.  By seeking excellence you remain focus on the process, and this is illustrated by one training ride that saw me knackered four hours into a six hour training ride.  I finished the ride and was ready to pack in the goals for the season, until someone pointed out that it might have been breakfast…which I had been consuming in the minutes before starting the ride.  The following weekend I ate properly two hours before my ride and did the same session…with more than 10kms further ridden at the same velodrome. 

Knowing you need to achieve excellence (and not perfection) means you keep your eye on the ball, and you minimise sabotaging your self esteem if there are one off errors / mistakes.  A few key pointers include…
- Refrain from seeking out perfect results.  (Winning requires excellence, and unexpected negative events can be crippling if you believe everything has to be perfect).
- Remind yourself of what you’ve achieved and stay positive.  (Your opponents are out to defeat you – and remaining positive will give you an edge).
- Stay true to your goals.  (You set the goals to achieve specific outcomes.  This gives an amount of room for errors, and your focus is to stay within those boundaries).
- Remain objective.  (Are you on track for your goals??  What are your strengths and limiters??  Are you ready for the event??).
- Note what needs improving and learn from the experience.  (Get better…and not bitter).

Ride safe.



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